Re: Open letter to the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Palestinian Territories Occupied Since 1967
Regarding the urgent need to seriously address the lack of access of HRC mechanisms to the OPT

In Arab Countries, United Nations Human Rights Council by CIHRS

Dear Professor Michael Lynk,

00223We, the undersigned human rights organizations would like to congratulate you for being selected as Special Rapporteur on the situation of the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), and we look forward to working together.

As you assume your mandate, our organizations would like to draw your attention to the particularly concerning issue of consistent denial of access of Human Rights Council (HRC) experts and other UN mechanisms to the OPT by Israel the Occupying Power. This denial of access comes within the context of long-term non-cooperation by Israel with the Council and its mechanisms.

As you are well aware, consistent denial of access to the OPT has driven the previous mandate holder Dr. Makarim Wibisono to resign from the post after a short time. In the statement announcing his resignation, he expressed deep regret that, throughout his mandate, Israel failed to grant him access to the OPT: “Unfortunately, my efforts to help improve the lives of Palestinian victims of violations under the Israeli occupation have been frustrated every step of the way.[1]” Additionally, another previous mandate holder, Professor Richard Falk, was not only denied entry, but he was also illegally detained while trying to reach the OPT to fulfill his mandate.[2]

Israel’s failure to cooperate with the HRC and to allow UN mandate holders to the OPT was a common concern of states during the most recent Universal Periodic Review (UPR) review of Israel in 2013.[3] Various investigative bodies commissioned by the HRC have also expressed their regret for lack of access. Israel is adopting a strategy of denying access to UN experts and mandate holders as means to evade accountability. The Fact Finding Mission on Gaza (2009), the Fact Finding Mission on settlements (2013) and the Commission of Inquiry on Gaza (2014) were all denied access to the OPT to conduct investigations as mandated by the HRC. Each of these mechanisms has subsequently underlined the need for the HRC to ensure that Israel grant access to human rights bodies and mechanisms.

During the almost five decades of military occupation, Israel has taken advantage of insufficient international response to escalate violations against Palestinians rights. With every passing year, Palestinians are witnessing increased patterns of grave violations of International Human Rights Law (IHRL) and International Humanitarian law  (IHL).  At a time where there seems to be no end in sight for the plight of civilians living under occupation, more effort is crucially needed to highlight and address the worsening human rights conditions. The deterioration of the situation on the ground, coupled with rising attacks against human rights defenders and their work space necessitate the immediate attention of international experts who are mandated to protect civilians. Given that Israeli domestic system has failed to provide effective accountability and redress for the victims of violations, access of international human rights mechanisms, including Special Procedures is key for ensuring justice.

Your appointment sends a message of hope to Palestinians that their plight has not been forgotten. We are looking forward to continue working with your mandate towards ensuring redress of the historic injustice suffered by Palestinians, by fully exercising their basic right to self-determination. For this purpose we are sincerely hoping that you will be able to witness the situation on the ground by visiting the OPT.  In this regard, we, the undersigned human rights organizations call upon you to:

  1. Organize a joint visit to the OPT, along with a delegation of other relevant mandate holders, by insisting to the Israeli authorities that it is their duty to allow and facilitate such a visit.
  2. In case access is denied, to strongly, collectively, and publicly condemn Israel’s failure to allow effective protection of the civilian population under military occupation, including through meetings with UN officials, mechanisms and representatives of states with influence.
  3. If denial of access persists; to consider the legal consequences of continued non compliance of the Occupying Power with its international duties through all available means.

Signatories:

  1. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
  2. Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel
  3. Al Haq
  4. Badil- Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugees Rights
  5. Civic Coalition for Jerusalem
  6. Medical Aid for Palestine
  7. The Community Action Center (Al-Quds University)

[1]OHCHR, News, Special Rapporteur on Occupied Palestinian Territory resigns due to continued lack of access to OPT, 4 January 2016, available at: http://www.ohchr.org/en/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=16922&LangID=E#sthash.8AIbcCrj.dpuf:

[2] UN News Center, Israel’s detention of UN expert ‘unprecedented’ – rights chief,16 December 2008, available at: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=29326#.V1AlPfnhC00

[3] States that expressed concern over lack of access of Mandate Holders, and lack of Israeli cooperation with the HRC are: Tunisia, Cuba, Hungary, Iran, Rwanda, Spain, South Korea, Macedonia, Bolivia, Japan, Turkey, Pakistan, Nicaragua, Slovenia, Guatemala, Uruguay. See: Human Rights Council, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review for Israel, 19 December 2013, (A/HRC/25/15) available at: https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G13/190/45/PDF/G1319045.pdf?OpenElement

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